Friday, December 26, 2014

Letting Life Lead Me in the Right Direction

I feel a bit sad that I haven't been able to update my blog since August. I have so much to share, like an interview that I did with BNS Iyengar while I was in Mysore, but I haven't been able to even finish writing about my experiences with surfing and teaching yoga in Sri Lanka. I have tried, believe me, but the last months have been quite busy.

I was having a really great time in Arugam Bay since May, learning how to surf, hanging out with friends, and teaching yoga in my guesthouse but I decided to leave by the end of August.

I wanted to stay longer in Sri Lanka, I had actually extended my visa till October, but I was considering joining a three years ashram life program (gurukulam program) at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) ashram in Rishikesh, India which was meant to start beginning of October.

I wasn't sure at all if I was going to do this or not but if I did I first wanted to go back to Mysore for at least one month to meet some of my friends and to practice ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with my teacher, Vijay Kumar

Being in Mysore for a month sounded also like a good transition before going for a strict ashram life after the great life that I was having in Arugam Bay. So, by the end of August, I traveled back to Colombo, applied for a new Indian visa, and as soon as I got it I made my way to Mysore, India.

One of those super fun evenings in Mysore

Yes, it was definitely a good idea to go back to Mysore. I had a great time with my friends and a wonderful Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice with my teacher. One month is definitely not enough in Mysore.

The Gurukulam Program

The main focus of the three years gurukulam program at the SRSG ashram in Rishikesh is the study and practice of meditation, yoga philosophy, and a very gentle form of hatha yoga. I had actually been thinking about joining this gurukulam program for more than four years, even before I quit my corporate job in Belgium!

Every time that I've visited this ashram before (this is my fourth time here) I would ask everyone about the gurukulam program. So, last time that I was at the ashram, in March of this year, people kept asking me, “Marco, have you taken a decision yet? are you joining us in October?”

But this was not an easy decision. There are so many things that I could do and so many places where I could be; choosing to stay in one place for such a long time is not very easy. Another reason why this was a difficult decision is that one of my intentions is to enjoy life to the fullest, but living in an ashram can actually be a really challenging experience.

Emotional purification? Not again please!

One of my readers that had joined this program after reading my blog about SRSG decided to leave even before the end of his first year. He said that he had had enough of the emotional purification. 

My first thought was, “What? Emotional purification at SRSG? But that place is like a paradise!” But I know very well that ashram life can be quite intense (if you want to know more about what emotional purification means you can read "Yoga Sadhana: overcoming negative emotions") and the cold winters in Rishikesh surely won't help.

Some of the gardens around the ashram

Isn't it beautiful?

Long meditation during the silence day

Letting life lead me in the right direction

It took me a while to realize that I wasn't going to be able to decide to join this three years program. It was just not possible for me to make a commitment for such a long time, cause you know, anything can happen and because I still want to enjoy life. So I decided not to make any decisions until the last minute and to let life lead me in the right direction, and it did.

By the end of September, when the time came to decide to move to the ashram it felt like a natural choice, everything pointed in that direction. 

All the friends that I had met in Mysore during September were going to leave the same week that I was leaving and for the first time ever I was the first one to leave. It usually happens during my travels that I am the last person to leave any particular place and I have to say goodbye to everyone that I've met.

Living it day by day

I also told to myself that there is no need to torture me, if at any point I feel unhappy if I feel that my stay is not productive anymore or if I feel that this is no longer the right place for me I could just leave. There is no need to make a commitment for three years, there is no need to see the top of the mountain, I just need to live it day by day. 

So maybe I'll stay a day, a month (already three months), a year or three years, who knows? I don't know and I don't need to know, all I care about now is the experience that I'm having at this moment.

Special puja on the 23rd of October during the Diwali celebration 

My life at the ashram

So, how has it been so far? Well, it's not so easy believe me. I have lost the physical strength, stamina, and flexibility that I had while I was in Sri Lanka and in Mysore, and also lost some weight (that's what ashram life does to your body!).

We hardly have any time for self-study, my guitar is standing right next to my desk accumulating dust since I arrived, I haven't been able to update my blog and at this moment the temperature in the mornings and evenings is somewhere between 4 and 8 degrees (39 - 46 Fahrenheit)!

My room at the ashram.  It's not bad but it gets really really cold.  No direct sunlight!

Last November after finishing the Teacher Training Program Level 1,
for the second time! Gurukulam students are required to do the TTP

My daily routing starts at 4:30 am and I basically don't stop till I go to bed around 11:30 pm. I do practice however two or three times a day deep conscious relaxation (not a nap!) for about 15 to 20 minutes to recharge my batteries. Without it I wouldn't be able to survive.

But you know what, believe it or not, I'm still enjoying life. Yes, I feel very happy, though this is a very different type of happiness compared to the great time that I was having in Arugam Bay or in Mysore.

I actually feel joy, a joy that comes mainly from studying a text that I love, The Bhagavad Gita, from learning some Sanskrit, and from having an intense and dedicated meditation practice.

Evening meditation with Swami Veda
 in the main meditation hall

Evening meditation with Swami Veda in the Initiation Room

Every day, twice a day, we practice sitting meditation for one hour and twice a week we have Bhagavad Gita classes with Siddhartha Krishna, a really amazing teacher. I feel so inspired with his Bhagavad Gita classes that I've been dedicating most of my self-study time (not much, believe me) to studying this text. There is not really free time here, free time means self-study time.

Siddhartha Krishna.  It's a real privilege to be in his class

In all my years of school, highschool and college I never ever used
more than one color to take my notes, and that's if I took some notes.
I must be really inspired.

Of course, there is a lot more going on around here but I'll have to share that with you later, if I can. I really want to be able to write more regularly but I haven't been able to master sleep yet; if I could only do with three hours of sleep a day... 

What I can tell you is that so far it feels as if I'm exactly where I need to be and the people here, who have always received me in the past as one of their own, are wonderful. I feel as if I were surrounded by angels.

During a Children's retreat that started on December 22

Even Santa Claus came to the Ashram!

And since this will be my last post of this year, to end it let me share with you a small message.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas time and
I wish you all the best year ever.  Oh and by the way, this is the
Christmas tree decorated by the children during their retreat :-)


  1. Wow Marco! I really admire your ability to flow with life, but also practice incredible intentionality about who you are and how you want to live. I am motivated to be more disciplined in my own practice reading about your commitment. I wish you health and wellness of mind, body, and spirit in 2015. Sending love!

    -Lindsey from Kopan 2013 :)

    1. Lindsey!!! So happy to hear from you :-) Wishing you too a wonderful new year, may all your "intentions" for this new year manifest into your life :-) Big warm hugs to you.

  2. Wow Marco. Sounds like a very brave, but amazing journey you're on. Wishing you all the best for 2015.

    1. Thank you Phillippa, well, it's not that hard :-) but definitely an amazing journey. Wishing you too an amazing 2015!

  3. Marco! You wonderful blog has helped me plan my 6 month sabbatical in 2015. I will be in SRSG in April, then probably a yoga/meditation silence retreat in Dharamkot. You, your journey, your take on it, your honest descriptions of your ups and downs, are all so inspiring. Thank you for sharing everything...and with so much love. I would love to bump into you in April if you still are there. All the best with the course and wish you an amazing 2015!

    1. Wow Ruhi, I'm so so happy to hear that. Thanks a lot for your positive comments, that really motivates me to continue sharing my path. Yes, if everything works out well I'll still be here in April, would be great to meet you then. Gotta go out en of Feb to get a new visa. Fingers crossed. Good luck with your sabbatical, I'm sure you will have an amazing life changing journey :-) and all the best for 2015!

  4. Beautiful Marco! My heart is with you. I'm so happy for you to start this new spiritual journey and for taking it one day, one hour, one moment at a time. Truly inspiring to see you living this way. Light, love, and the happiest of new years to you my friend. (I tried to publish this before but I'm not sure if it worked, sorry if I've commented twice)

    1. Oh Alexis thank you so much for your message, I really hope that our path will cross again sometime in the near future. Wishing you an amazing 2015, wherever it will bring you I'm sure it will be great :-) xxx

  5. hey marcoji, I am really touched to read about your decision!!! what a decision!!! chapeau... and all the best to u_uu :)

    with love and appreciation


    1. Izzy! Thank you my dear friend. What are you up to know? I hope all is well on your side, I wish I could know more from you, but whenever I go back to Europe I'll visit you for sure :-) Big warm loving hugs

  6. Marco ji -

    humbled to have met you - and more thrilled to be able to read about your stories so nicely written and well shared on this portal.

    I had read your blog on its various entries several times before taking note on the author it seems... but definitely, this post is making me very intrigued on the program.. !! :) Thank you for this share & the many other useful entries :) ! x

    1. Haha, I just read your comment Aly, and I laugh cause you sound so serious! :-D Miss you!!! xxx